Black Carbon, Air Quality and Climate: From the Local to the Global Scale

EPA Grant Number: R835035
Title: Black Carbon, Air Quality and Climate: From the Local to the Global Scale
Investigators: Pandis, Spyros N. , Robinson, Allen , Donahue, Neil , Adams, Peter
Institution: Carnegie Mellon University
EPA Project Officer: Chung, Serena
Project Period: September 1, 2011 through August 31, 2014
Project Amount: $900,000
RFA: Black Carbon's Role In Global To Local Scale Climate And Air Quality (2010) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Air Quality and Air Toxics , Climate Change , Air


Reduction of black carbon (BC) emissions represents a potential win-win strategy in our effort to improve air quality while limiting climate change. However, the magnitude of the benefits remains quite uncertain because of our limited understanding of the contributions of the various source sectors to the BC mass and number concentrations, the atmospheric processing of black carbon particles including their physical and chemical changes, the role of other absorbing organics (brown carbon), the contributions of the various source sectors (and long range transport) to the direct and indirect effects of BC on climate, and the effect of BC on local and regional meteorology. Control strategies resulting in changes to BC emissions will often result in changes to emissions of various co-pollutants (primary and secondary organic aerosol, sulfur, particle number concentration) and may have significant effects on the aerosol and cloud droplet number concentrations. Reduction of the above uncertainties and quantification of the effects of the various BC control strategies on both air quality and climate change in the US are the main objectives of the proposed study. More specifically focusing on the US we will:

  1. Develop size- and composition-resolved number emission inventories for BC-containing sources for the US and also improve the existing mass inventories using a consistent definition of BC.
  2. Improve our understanding of the atmospheric processing of BC particles.
  3. Improve the ability of the existing regional and global chemical transport and climate models to simulate the BC mass and number concentrations and their effects on climate.
  4. Quantify the contributions of the different BC source sectors (including long-range transport) to BC mass and number concentrations.
  5. Quantify the contributions of the same source sectors to the direct, indirect and semi-direct effects of BC on climate.
  6. Elucidate the role of BC in local and regional meteorology, including temperature and the hydrological cycle.
  7. Quantify the effectiveness of various US and global strategies of reducing BC on BC mass and particle number concentrations, direct, indirect and semi-direct radiative forcing and climate change.
  8. Identify and quantify major uncertainties in emissions, atmospheric processing, and climate impacts of BC mitigation.


Our approach will combine laboratory measurements, number emission inventory development, continued development of state-of-the-art chemical transport and coupled chemical transport/climate models, and application of these tools to the US and the world. The proposed work will reduce uncertainties about the sources of BC in the US (both from a mass and a number standpoint), will result in improved tools for the simulation of BC concentrations and its radiative and climate effects, and will allow us to better quantify the benefits of different emission control strategies or emission scenarios.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 25 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 11 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Air quality modeling, smog, PM, general circulation model

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2012 Progress Report
  • 2013 Progress Report
  • Final Report